Iran and the P5+1 were unable to reach a comprehensive agreement in Vienna this month on Iran’s nuclear programme and have instead extended the Geneva interim agreement by four months to allow further negotiations. The outcome was no shock: while progress has been made in the negotiations, significant gaps remain on key issues such as Iran’s enrichment programme. The incentives to strike a comprehensive deal remain strong on both sides. The key question is whether political space exists in Washington and Tehran to make the required trade-offs. The new deadline of 24 November, coming after the US mid-term elections and during the lame duck session of Congress, is well chosen. A second extension looks unlikely. The next four months will therefore determine whether the dangerous stand-off between Iran and the west is resumed or relations are to move decisively towards normalisation, opening up new commercial opportunities in Iran’s consumer market and energy sector. More work is needed in capitals as well as in Vienna if the next phase of negotiations is to succeed.
The views expressed in this note can be attributed to the named author(s) only.